Union Songs

With These Arms: Songs and poems of the MUA

Article by Mark Gregory (from the CD notes June 2003)
(Listen to the CD tracks)

with these armsThe Maritime Union of Australia is an extraordinary organisation to be able to count so many playwrights, poets, painters, cartoonists and writers amongst its friends.

In the 1950s the union had its own documentary film unit; the famous Waterside Workers' Film Unit. For a time Sydney's New Theatre was housed in the wharfies' headquarters in Sussex Street. Artists like Noel Counihan, Rod Shaw and Herb McClintock worked with the union for many years. Writers such
as Betty Collins, John Morrison, Frank Hardy, Dorothy Hewett, Merv Lilley, Wendy Lowenstein and Denis Kevans were among the many supporters of the union.

"With These Arms" is a compilation of songs and poems from many sources, from emails from old LPs and tapes, from CDs, pamphlets, magazines, and books.

From the picket lines and support concerts during the lockout in 1998 are songs and poems written and performed at that time. These new songs and poems are from Tim O'Brien, Peter Hicks, John Dengate, Wendy Lowenstein, John Warner, John Hospodaryk, Maurie Mulheron, John Tomlinson and Penny Harrison.

There are also songs and poems spanning the last 70 years or so, including many from the musicians of the folk revival movement like Don Henderson, Chris Kempster, Bill Berry, Declan Affley, Harry Robertson, and Clem Parkinson.

It's hard to think of another union in the world that has had so many songs written about it. Is to do with the constant global traveling of sailors? Or the multicultural mix of waterside workers? or the union's long history of active interest in Australian theatre, film, art and music?

The union campaigned hard over the years for Aboriginal rights, have supported fellow unionists both at home and around the world, have been involved in the anti-colonial, anti-war and anti-apartheid

For over a hundred years the MUA has made firm friends at home and abroad, friends who stood by union when it came to face the might of government and employer combined in illegal conspiracy in 1997-1998.


"With These Arms" is available from:

Level 2 365 Sussex St
Sydney NSW 2000

phone: (61 2) 9267 9134
fax: (61 2) 9261 5897
email: muano@mua.org.au

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